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Position battleground (defense): Cowboys vs. Commanders head-to-head breakdown for defensive positions

A positional head-to-head breakdown on the Week 4 matchup between the Cowboys and Commanders to find the strengths and weaknesses of each defensive position.

Washington Football Team v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Previously we broke down the offense for this week’s upcoming game for the Dallas Cowboys, now we dive back into the position battleground, this time looking at how the defensive positions and special teams stack up against each other.


Even the great Michael Irvin has been raving about how well the Cowboys defensive line is playing right now. The NFL has a team that leads in sacks in Week 4, and that team is the Dallas Cowboys. The Dallas defensive line is also third in total team pressures in the league, proving they truly are swinging to the defensive side of the ball as being the strength of the team. Sure, the run defense is a little leaky for Dallas, and the Washington Commanders defensive line is doing a better job at stopping the run, but the last time the top ranked defense in sacks met the offensive line that was giving up the most sacks was in 2017, exciting times! Washington’s defensive line has always been the talk of the team, and when you see they are the fifth best in stopping run plays for a first down, it’s fair to say for the Commanders it’s not all bad. But for all the talent the Commanders have, they still rank somewhere in the middle among defensive lines in the NFL. Underperformance tied in with injuries are playing their part in the line not being up to expectations.

For the Cowboys, both Dorance Armstrong and DeMarcus Lawrence are getting their share of sacks and pressures. Tank leads the charge in tackles on the team among defensive linemen, even ranking fifth among edge defenders in the NFL with ten tackles on the season. With teams so focused on Micah Parsons, players like Tank, Armstrong and Osa Odighizuwa get to live in the opposition’s backfield. Expect this week to be a fun day for the Cowboys defensive line

Win: Cowboys

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images


Davis/Holcomb vs Parsons/LVE/Barr

Jamin Davis is Washington’s version of Micah Parsons and both players were taken in the same draft just seven picks apart. In terms of play style, they are starkly different, but both display high levels of athleticism and speed. Davis is a good tackler and has been finding the ball-carrier well this year, but to say he’s anywhere near the talent level of Parsons would be delusional. Leighton Vander Esch still holds the title of highest tackle count on the team that is not a defensive back, but he did have a fairly quiet game last week. Anthony Barr did a good job rushing the passer, but we all know this head-to-head comes down to Micah Parsons, do we need to say more?

Win: Cowboys

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


Donovan Wilson, Anthony Brown, Malik Hooker- that’s the top three players in tackles for Dallas. Trevon Diggs sealed the deal last week with his first interception on the season, and the news on Jayron Kearse is he’s getting into practice, meaning his return could possibly be coming soon. The Cowboys defensive backs right now have allowed 529 passing yards, which is the fourth stingiest in the NFL. What’s even sweeter for the Cowboys backs is they rank first in the NFL on passing touchdowns with two allowed.

For the Commanders, they rank second worse with eight passing touchdowns allowed, sixth in passing yards allowed and in the top ten in first downs allowed through the air. CB Kendall Fuller is second in the NFL in yards allowed among cornerbacks, and their safety Darrick Forrest is allowing the third most yards among safeties. It’s an interesting standoff for both teams defensive back rosters, but we’ve seen them up to the task before.

Win: Cowboys

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoff-San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports


So Washington kicker Joey Slye has yet to attempt a field goal and has already missed an extra point. Brett Maher has already kicked a game-winner and has only missed one kick so far, and that attempt was over 50 yards.

For the team’s punters, the Cowboys have Bryan Anger, who has put the opposition back inside their own 20 more times than Commanders punter Tress Way. But Way does have a pretty strong leg ranking fifth in yards per attempt, and he’s knocked one down the field for 62 yards.

In terms of return specialists, it’s KaVontae Turpin versus Dax Milne, and they are pretty equal in terms of kickoff return efficiency. But on punt returns Turpin has the better average per return rate by a clear mile. Turpin’s yards per return and longest return are both in the top four among fellow returners.

Win: Cowboys


Which team has the better defense?

This poll is closed

  • 97%
    Dallas Cowboys
    (451 votes)
  • 2%
    Washington Commanders
    (10 votes)
461 votes total Vote Now

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